Looking for the American Airlines Pet Policy? Thinking of flying American Airlines with a dog? Sniff out everything you MUST know before you go!
As a world dog traveler who has hopped on over 60 flights across more than 25 countries, I’ve flown American Airlines on more flights than I can remember with my sharp senior Yorkie mind. While it’s not my favorite dog-friendly airline, I haven’t had any growling, lowered tail experiences traveling with them. With that barked, I’ve had minor hiccups on a domestic flight and a HUGE derailment on some international travel plans.
**Please note that this website contains affiliate links, and at no obligation or additional cost to you, my humans and I earn a small commission if you make a purchase. If you love the work that we do, you can show your support by making a purchase through an affiliate link. Proceeds will go towards helping homeless dogs (and cats) along with improving the lives of the neglected and abused.
Let’s take a deep sniff of the American Airlines Pet Policy and my experiences with them.
FLYING YOUR DOG IN-CABIN OR AS A CARRY-ON
First bark first, let’s bark about what kind of dogs can fly with American Airlines. Currently, dogs who are small enough to fit a carrier with the maximum allowed dimensions can fly in-cabin with their humans as a “carry-on pet.” Before you go buy an oversized travel carrier for your big dog, sniff out their maximum dimensions:
18 x 11 x 11 inches / 46 x 28 x 28 centimeters (length + width + height)
The carrier must be secure, padded, made of water-repellent material, and have nylon mesh ventilation on 3 or more sides.
REAL BARKS: What I wag my stylish undocked tail to is that AA is not suPAW strict on these “maximum dimensions.” Hence, don’t fret if your soft-sided collapsible carrier is slightly larger! Per AA Pet Policy, the carrier can be a little bigger as long as it fits under the seat (without having to excessively collapse it). WOOF-HOO!
This works well for my favorite carrier, a 5-in-1 carrier, backpack, car seat, roller bag, and tote! The dimensions of this Pet Gear Carrier are 14 X 9 X 19 inches (length + width + height). Although the height exceeds 11 inches, the length and width are actually lower than the maximum, and the carrier slides right underneath the seat in front of all the AA planes I’ve flown on. The material is of nylon, mesh, and synthetic fabric. Additionally, this carrier boasts a water resistance feature, shoulder strap, roller, removable pad, interior tether for security, and convenient side pockets (where my human puts a few treats and poop bags). ARF-my-DOG!
If you’re worried about meeting the AA carrier dimensions, go for my backup carrier, a soft Sherpa shoulder carrier that I’ve been lending to my sidekick Penny. It‘s a sturdy 2-in-1 Sherpa carrier/backpack that offers a Guaranteed On Board program!
TOP DOG TIP: I always recommend flying your dog in a soft carrier over a hard-sided kennel, and so does AA. Not only is it easier for you to carry, but it also provides more wiggle room for your furry traveler. But, if you are adamant about flying your dog in a hard-sided kennel, sniff out the AA dimensions below.
Mainline flights: 19 x 13 x 9 inches / 48 x 33 x 22 centimeters (length + width + height)
Regional flights on American Eagle: 16 x 12 x 8 inches / 40 x 30 x 20 centimeters (length + width + height)
*Just a bark that American Eagle is a U.S. brand name for the regional branch of American Airlines.
*Be sure to call AA ahead of time to confirm the maximum dimensions allowed on your flight
Non-collapsible kennels cannot exceed the under-seat dimensions of any aircraft included in your itinerary.
While American Airlines doesn’t have a weight limit for dogs traveling in-cabin, you can’t assume you can stuff your medium-sized dog into a carrier! Not only is it detrimental for your dog’s health and well-being, it also violates the American Airlines Pet Policy, which states that your dog (pet) must be “small enough to fit comfortably inside the closed or zipped carrier.” Comfortably means your dog should be able to stand, turn, and sit while inside.
AA also makes clear that they assume ZERO liability for your dog’s health or well-being. This means whatever happens to your dog is ON YOU. Hence, don’t attempt to force your dog inside a carrier not made for his size!
Flying Your Dog as a Carry-On Limitations
Like most airlines, AA only allows a certain number of “pet” dogs or non-service dogs to fly in-cabin.
7 kennels on American flights, excluding service animals
5 kennels on American Eagle flights; 1 in First. (Yes, you sniffed that right – 1 in First Class).
*Again, American Eagle is a U.S. brand name for the regional branch of American Airlines.
For those fancy furry travelers, dogs (unfortunately) are not allowed in First or Business Class on the following aircraft: Boeing 777-200, 777-300, 787-8, and 787-9. And yet, this is due to the lack of underseat storage space. Therefore, if you must fly First or Business Class, you should ensure the flight is operating under a different aircraft.
BARKS OF CAUTION: Never sedate your dog for a flight! Not only does American Airlines prohibit dogs who have been sedated or tranquilized, but doing so also leads to a higher risk of respiratory and cardiovascular PAWblems at high altitudes for dogs. ARF, I wag my stylish undocked tail to hear that AA follows the guidelines recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
HOW TO ADD YOUR DOG AS A CARRY-ON
AWOOO, let me howl that adding your dog in-cabin is easy peasy! My human loves how convenient and easy it is to add me to her flight itinerary online – all done quickly without having to wait to talk to a live human on the phone.
First barks – you must book your flight. After receiving your flight confirmation, locate your trip on aa.com or the American app. Under Special Services, click on “Add carry-on pets.” It’ll bring you to a page with all the carry-on pet requirements, including that your dog must stay in the carrier or kennel and under the seat in front of you the entire flight. Once you review and agree, you’ll be able to select the flights to add your dog.
You’ll pay the “pet fee” when checking in at the airport – keep sniffing below for my experience.
FLYING YOUR DOG AS A CHECKED PET
If your dog isn’t small enough to fly in-cabin, American Airlines can fly your dog as a checked pet ONLY if you are an active-duty U.S. Military and State personnel. If you’re a regular Joe like my humans, flying your dog as a checked pet is not an option. ARF yeah, in case you don’t know – flying your dog as a checked pet means that your dog is on the same flight as you, but has to be transported in cargo (something my humans refuse to do anyway).
FLYING YOUR DOG VIA AMERICAN PETEMBARK™
There is a third option for dogs who don’t meet either criteria as a carry-on pet or checked pet, and that is the American PetEmbark™ service. This means you’re NOT on the same flight as your dog, and you would be dropping off your dog for a flight via cargo. Whether you fly your dog as a checked pet or through the American PetEmbark™ service, your dog is still transported via cargo, which can be a traumatic experience.
Due to the life-threatening risks associated with cargo transport, I strongly advise against it unless it’s for a long-term or permanent mode.
FLYING YOUR DOG AS A SERVICE DOG
As expected, service dogs fly in-cabin with their handler regardless of their size, free of charge. You must present a completed DOT Service Animal Air Transportation Form. For flights longer than 8 hours, you must also present a completed DOT Service Animal Relief Attestation Form.
Since I’ve only had experiences flying in-cabin, you can sniff out more information about AA’s policy on flying with your service dog here.
BARK OF CAUTION: American Airlines requires that dogs traveling within the U.S. and Puerto Rico be at least 8 weeks old. I actually don’t recommend traveling with your dog until he reaches maturity.
American Airlines Dog Fees
The in-cabin dog fees at American Airlines are pretty standard at $125 one-way for destinations within and between the United States, to and from Canada and Mexico. The barkworthy news is that the dog fee remains at $125 for destinations in Central America and the Caribbean (although there are restrictions, keep sniffing below). Well, I would bark that $125 is on the higher end, but even my favorite domestic budget airline Southwest has increased its pet fare from $95 to $125 (GRRR), leaving Delta to be a lone wolf charging only $95. Alaska charges $5 more at $100. WOOF, gotta lick Delta Airlines if I could!
Compared to dog-friendly airlines in Europe, a $125 one-way dog fee is steep, especially for domestic flights. However, compared to other dog-friendly U.S.-based airlines, a $125 one-way dog fee is standard – just like United, JetBlue, and Spirit.
TOP DOG TIP: Like most airlines, only one passenger can travel with one kennel or one dog as a carry-on. This means you’ll be losing your carry-on bag allowance because your dog is now considered your “carry on.” Such practice, although ubiquitous, is completely unfair! Grr. Think about it – you pay $125 for your dog AND lose a carry-on baggage when screaming babies fly for free (and can access early boarding). Unless you can somehow only travel with one personal item, you must pay to check in your baggage and incur additional charges, starting at $30 for one checked bag on domestic routes. However, if you are an AAdvantage Platinum member or at a certain level of membership with AA, you can get 1st and 2nd checked bags for free.
If you’re in the military or State Department, you can fly your dog as a checked pet for $200 one-way per kennel to destinations within and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean, Europe and from the United Kingdom. Flying your dog to or from Brazil? The checked pet fee magically drops to $150!
*Again, due to life-threatening risks, I do NOT recommend transporting your dog in cargo unless this is a long-term or permanent move. And, again, the checked pet option is only for active duty military or State Department personnel.
Cargo fees for the American PetEmbark™ service vary depending on the route and the size of your dog, so you’ll have to check with reservations prior to booking.
Please note that AA has breed, connecting flight, and temperature restrictions for cargo transport along with vet health certificate requirements.
BARKS OF CAUTION: All American Airlines dog fees are non-refundable and apply per kennel, each way. It’s imPAWtant to note that these fees apply for each destination without a voluntary stopover or connection of 4 hours or more. If you are “voluntarily” having a layover for more than 4 hours, you’ll have to pay a separate dog fee for each connection segment.
How to Pay the Dog Fee at American Airlines
Dog or pet fees are to be paid at the American ticket counter at the airport or a travel center with a credit card (or paper voucher, if accepted), which makes things convenient in case your plans change. American Airlines does NOT accept cash or checks for payment, so save some trees! It’s imPAWtant to note that AA does NOT collect dog fees for other operating airlines, even if it has an AA flight number. I know this can be confusing, but you can identify a partner airline if you see the words “Operated by” on your ticket.
When checking in for my very first AA flight from San Francisco to Miami, the counter rep advised my human that a “pet” wasn’t added to her itinerary, which wasn’t true. For an annoying few minutes, the rep kept checking her computer and insisted that no record exists. Good thing my human already took a screenshot of the online confirmation (versus scrambling to locate the right email from AA – so note taken). Whew! That finally moved things along.
Subsequently, she asked to see me and my carrier. Although she didn’t disapprove, my human and I were surprised that she even asked to see it – compared to our experiences with other dog-friendly based airlines, where a glance from behind the counter suffices. But, luckily, despite her noticeably perturbed attitude, she didn’t scrutinize too much or bring out a measuring tape. To be fair, I think she just wanted to make sure I wasn’t too big for my carrier, or that my carrier wasn’t oversized.
Any-HOWL, my human paid $125 for the “pet fee” on her credit card, and off we go!
Flying AA with a Dog – Overall Experience
Since my Miami trip, I’ve flown on AA at least 3 more times. Besides the small hiccup I had at SFO, I can’t bark anything bad about AA in terms of the flight experience. For the most part, the flight attendants have left me alone, which means things are as smooth as they can be. Also, I snuck out of the carrier for a quick breather every few hours on every flight – no PAWblem, despite the rules that dogs must remain inside throughout the entire flight.
PROS OF FLYING AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH YOUR DOG
Convenience: You can add your dog online easily – as barked earlier, my human loves how easy it is to add a dog to her flight itinerary, which is done online or through the AA app.
Flexibility: You don’t have to pay the dog fee ahead of time since payment is made at the airport, making things uber flexible. Like other major airlines, AA has also eliminated most change fees since the pandemic, allowing them to stay competitive with other airlines.
Leniency: From my experience, most flight attendants seem lenient about dogs coming out of the carrier for a quick breather – but, arf course, you should gauge your environment before taking your dog out as this is technically against the rules.
Also, per the AA Pet Policy, your dog’s carrier can be slightly larger than the maximum dimensions found on their website. As long as the carrier fits under the seat in front, you’re good to go! This makes things less stressful when you’ve found the PAWfect carrier with slightly off dimensions.
CONS OF FLYING AMERICAN AIRLINES WITH YOUR DOG
System Errors: Perhaps it was just a one-time system glitch, but our first “pet” reservation with AA was supposedly not found in their system at the counter. TOP DOG TIP: Always have a screenshot of your dog’s reservation handy.
Scrutiny: Be prepared if the counter rep asks to scrutinize the carrier.
Prohibited Routes: Dogs are NOT allowed to fly in-cabin on all routes, so don’t make our mistake by assuming! Due to ban of dogs in-cabin flights on transatlantic, transpacific, and on more than several South America routes, I would bark that AA makes a decent airline for domestic dog travel, but not international. But, don’t assume dogs can fly anywhere in-cabin within the U.S. on American Airlines – they’re also not allowed to fly in-cabin to or from Hawaii.
Pet Stroller Fees: If you have a pet stroller for your dog, you must check it in at the ticket counter and pay the checked bag fee. Good thing I don’t have one, but a pet stroller can come in handy for senior dogs like me.
DOGS BANNED FROM CERTAIN INTERNATIONAL ROUTES ON AA
AWOOO, perk up your ears to my howl. Yes, it’s true, and my pack and I learned the hard way!
It’s strange, but it happened to us. Airlines that normally fly dogs in-cabin may NOT fly dogs in-cabin coming from Brazil, which was the case of American Airlines. Since there were only a paw-ful of airlines with direct flights to the U.S. from Brazil, this was a real shocker for us and derailed our plans. Grrr. While AA had the most affordable flights from Rio to the U.S. at the time, we weren’t able to take advantage of them. Per AA’s current policy, you cannot travel with a carry-on pet when traveling to/from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay. Why not? I did some digging with my furry paws, but couldn’t find the answer. The same goes for Delta – “pet travel is not allowed for pets originating in Brazil (and Colombia)” and must undergo cargo. Service dogs are, ARF course, exempt from this rule.
Luckily, United Airlines allows dogs to fly in-cabin to/from Brazil, so we went with them (despite the fact that I thought I would never fly United again). United is another major U.S. airline with flights to and from Brazil. Penny Gurl and I have also flown on Copa Airlines, Latin America’s major airline that accepts dogs in-cabin to Brazil (but they also didn’t have any direct flights to the U.S. at the time).
TOP DOG TIP: Since you get 24 hours for a full refund on all flights to and from the U.S., book your flight to secure a low price and then do all the research regarding any dog restrictions within those 24 hours. You can cancel the flight and get all your money back within 24 hours.
*Please note that AA adheres to CDC guidelines regarding dog import from high-risk rabies countries, including Brazil.
On July 14, 2021, the U.S. started temporarily suspending dog import from high-rabies countries. The suspension has been extended continuously for dogs coming from high-risk rabies countries (e.g. Brazil, Cuba, China, Russia, etc.). If you are trying to return to the U.S. from a country classified as “high-risk” for rabies, then your dog must apply for a CDC Dog Import Permit OR have a current, valid US-issued rabies vaccination certificate, proof of an ISO-compatible microchip, is at least 6 months old, is healthy upon arrival, and arrives at one of the 18 designated airports with a CDC quarantine station.
Here’s a list of AA destinations with route restrictions on dog travel:
You cannot travel with a dog in-cabin to Jamaica. Additionally, you cannot arrive on a flight before 8 am or after 4 pm when traveling with a dog to Trinidad and Tobago (POS).
You cannot travel with a dog in-cabin to or from Hawaii.
You can travel with your dog to Hawaii as a checked pet if you only connect via Honolulu (HNL) and follow Hawaii’s quarantine rules. Additionally, you cannot travel with your dog on nonstop flights to Maui, the Big Island of Hawaii or Kauai, or if your dog is pregnant and past 45 days gestation.
As barked above, you cannot travel with a dog in-cabin when traveling to and from:
You cannot travel with your dog in-cabin on transatlantic trips.
Besides service dogs, you cannot travel with a dog in-cabin to the U.K. or Ireland, but you can transport dogs to London (LHR) and Manchester (MAN) with American Airlines Cargo.
You cannot travel with your dog in-cabin on transpacific trips.
Japan exception – This exception sounds suPAW tricky. Although you can travel with a checked pet from Japan to Los Angeles (LAX) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW), dogs are NOT allowed as checked bags to Japan. So, what does this mean? I’m guessing it’s a NO GO for active duty military and U.S. personnel trying to fly their dogs to Japan.
WOOF, hope you like my review of American Airlines Pet Policy. Feel free to share your experience with me. BARK AT ME!
Need some paw holding? Sniff out my expert guide on how to travel with your dog!
Watch me fly around the world:
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob